Friday, June 24, 2016

Cleaning the Garage – the Final Chapter

Having gone through 55 years of Model Railroader magazines, I now feel as though I’ve come full circle. Having skimmed to my last issue (July 2012), the magazine has returned to sub 100 pages (where it started) from its glory days of 200+ pages. The new century brought a reduction in N scale material. It seems like the return to full HO emphasis started when they kicked Hedinger onto special hobby industry projects and retired Jim Kelley. Russ Larson returned on a temporary basis and they moved a Classic Toy Trains editor in. They were followed by a group of editors that I never really emotionally clicked with (other than Dave Propp). A lot of material from their new favorite overseas author didn’t do much for me either.

As to the demise of N scale material, which came first the chicken or the egg? Did the arrival of multiple N Scale magazines drain their material (and audience) or did their lack of published N scale material lead to the creation of the N Scale magazines?

They did do an interesting series on having different modelers list their 10 favorite or most used railroad web sites. Here’s mine in no particular order:
Model Train Stuff (but if it gets any slower, it’s getting dropped from the lsit)
Brooklyn Locomotive Works
PRSL Historical Society
N Scale Locomotive Encyclopedia
Model Railroad Hobbiest Magazine

I was actually beginning to miss my Model Railroader subscription until my reading took me into the 21st century. Then I understood why I let my subscription lapse. I read it for the inspiration and the monthlies no longer gave me enough inspiring material. (I still do look forward to the yearly “Great Model Railroads” specials.)

My results: After going through 700+ Model Railroader (& N Scale)  magazines, I have kept 65 issues (+20 Trains magazines), ripped out 343 reference articles, and selected 52 additional issues that I will now try to get the local libraries to put in their 8-15 year old youth sections. I got excited about the hobby after running across a Model Railroader magazine, maybe a few carefully chosen (inspirational) issues will do the same for some other kids.

I have also managed to contribute to the physical enhancement of the local sanitation engineers by enabling them to cart off 11 cases of magazines.

More MR Humor (collected 102 of them also):
1.1  "Dad, how old must I be before I can play with my train?"
1.2  "To my brother I leave my railroad cap, to my wife I leave the car, and to my layout I leave the house."
2.1  "I told you that model airplane remote control unit would never work in an F7."
2.2  "The house is filled with his railroad, but I still have my garden."
3.2  -
1.1  -
1.2  "I wonder how often John Allen had to replace his mirrors?"
2.1  "Oh yeah, I meant to tell you about that. Stuff sets up kinda quick."
2.2  "A guy named Charlie built all the mountains...
then all of a sudden he just quit comin' around."

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Clear the Garage III

Continuing my journey through my 55 years of paper Model Railroader issues, I have now completed the 1990s.  The issue sizes got into the 200+ pages rather consistently and then began to trend down into the mid one hundreds. The issue prices have reached well into the $3+ range.

To celebrate their 65th anniversary year they did an interesting series publishing "Milestones in Model Railroading."
Jan: Al Kalmbach starting Model Railroader magazine (what did you expect?)
Feb: Creation of the NMRA (they did create very helpful standards)
March: John Allen’s Engine house
April: Frank Ellison’s “The Art of Model Railroading”
May: Postage Stamp Trains (made the public aware of N scale)
June: Astrac starting command control
July: The Styrene Revolution (I guess wood wasn’t good enough)
Aug: Japanese brass (as if I could afford it then (or now))
Sept: Kadee Magne-Matic couplers
Oct: The Evolution of Scale Models (only discussed O & HO scales)
Nov: Ground Foam for Realistic Scenery (goodbye zip texturing!)
Dec: The Beginnings and Growth of HO Scale (we get no love at all in N scale!)

I should be able to complete the garage task (first pass) next week (my subscription ended in 2011).

And MR humor (into the 70s and 80s and the last of H A Smith (my favorite)):
1.1  "Before I can extend the mainline, I have to file an environmental impact statement with my wife.”
1.2  “Well, whaddaya know! The little bubble was stuck!”
2.1  "Want to see the 0-4-0 I bought for this room’s new layout!”
2.2  “This baby will cost you $179.99 plus tax, new drapes for the living room, a new gown, and a night at a French restaurant.”
3.1  “That the last time I visit a layout that has 27 duckunders and walk around control.”
1.1   “Services suspended until my kitchen shelves are put up – by order – Household Authority”
1.2   “There’s been a derailment somewhere in this area.”
2.1   “I made the mistake of asking Fred if he could break away from his trains long enough to fix the refrigerator door.”
2.2   “Captain, you asked me to remind you when we were over Denver.”

Friday, June 3, 2016

Clear the Garage II

Continuing my journey through my 55 years of paper MR issues, I have run through the 60s and 70s. The magazine was pretty steady through the 60s. 70 to 90 pages and 50 cents a copy, then we hit the rapid increases in price and pages: $0.65, $0.75, $1, $1.25, $1.50. But now we had color and 150 to 200 pages per issue.

Layouts at the time were center islands. You could guess their size by counting the number of access hatches embedded in them. The Smith cartoons went from 1 or 2 per issue to occasional status and the humor seemed to have changed. (I thought maybe someone else was writing under his by-line.)

The MR humor continues:
 1.1  “It sure is good to run the trains again. During the steel strike, in order to be true to prototype, my pike had to be idle.”
1.2   Termites with Diner’s Club Card
2.1  “Couls it wait a minute, Mac? Our leader is in the middle of a tricky train movement.”
2.2  “Train 711 for New Ritus, Clunkneyville and Chicago arriving on Track One.”
3.1  “Something tells me this picture isn’t going to be too authentic.”
3.2  “You and your live steamers.”
1.1  “I still think for a starter, we ought to keep the wiring simple.”
1.2  “Have you seen the latest L&N color scheme? All Black!”
2.1  “I vote we take up the question of couplers tonight.”
3.1  “All right! All right! So I’ll move it over a little.”
3.2  “It says, ‘This end up.’”

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Clear the Garage

One of my summer “train projects” will be to clear the garage so that I can get a car into it. One impediment is 55+ years of stored train magazines (mostly Model Railroader) dating back to 1958. What a trip down memory lane this is, since naturally I will want to scan them for keepers (both magazines and articles).

I get to revisit old “friends”: John Armstrong, Linn Wescott, Paul Larson, Whit Towers, Ed Ravenscroft, Allen McClanahan, John  Allen, Gordie Odegard, …  the great modelers who have gone before and paved the way.

Mantua Metals, Varney, Revell,… $0.89 box car kits ($2.49 RTR), 50 cent MR magazines (25 cents for back issues plus 25 cents shipping). Gem brass imports starting at $14.95, Penn Line $29 engine kits, Aristo Craft PRR position light signals for $2.75, …

Ravenscroft had his operating hump yard and a freight car forwarding system that used a small roulette wheel. The early magazines are extremely tattered (as you would expect from a 12 year old drooling dreamer).

Black and white photos and barren scenery (almost all western) was the norm. That’s why I fell in love with Carl Appel’s Norfolk and Ohio (“centerfold” November 1958). The spotlight seemed to have been on scratching building steam engines.

Anyway the biggest highlights have been from HA Smith’s train oriented cartoons. I’ll share them as I go. Enjoy.

1.1    “O gauger who models Pennsy equipment wishes to meet O gauger who models New York Central equipment. Object: merger.”
1.2    “In return for your ivory, we will trade precious gems that white man calls marker light jewels.”

2.1  “Put on your glasses, Frank, I’m over here!”

2.2  “Well, maybe if you had put up the screens when I asked you to …”
3.1  “You and your homemade diesel horn.”
3.2  “In Texas, even HO gauge is bigger.”

1.1  “Wow! What a realistic circus train – animal noises and everything!”
1.2  “I made the grass from an imported Persian rug, the water tower from a caviar tin, and the marker lights from an old diamond stick pin.”

2.1  “Psst, watch out for that witch doctor.”

2.2  “By doing research on prototype roads, I discovered over 99 per cent of them prefer point to point layouts.”
3.1  “This trackwork happens to be true to the prototype of the Bilgewater and Eastern, a little known line which went bankrupt in 1857 after 26 spectacular accidents.”
3.2  “I was lucky to find such a nice dry basement.”

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Op Session 6

Our 6th Operations Session took place yesterday (May 21) and we once again completed a full freight schedule. We were a bit rusty (my part-time tax prep job interferes with scheduling op sessions for about 6 months) but we will get back into the swing of things.

My wife wanted to know what we were laughing about in the loft for 4 hours, so it was a good time together. We were missing a key player (Gene) but we muddled happily along to completion.

The demerit list will be completed when I find the yard bum that knocked the coaling tower off its foundations and derailed all 4 of the steam engines parked under it.

Never knew yard work was such fun!

A PC Geep on a 1950s PRSL layout

Where did you say you last saw that train?
Hmm, pushing 2 tank cars and a cabin into an icing facility? Careful!
Rogue GP40 in staging

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Hiding the Edges

When the majority of your layout consists of 18” modules, you have “Edge Problems”.

A row of bushes helped, but it needed more. The South Philly viaduct really should have a refinery scene behind it but I got tired of viewing long tracks with nothing but “sky” behind them so I added some hills/mountains by taking 1/8’ masonite, painting it dark green, and adding mixes of Woodland Scenices extra course turf, course turf, and a grass blend to it while the paint was still wet. Hairspray and addition “turfs” were added in the second phase. At least now it takes the eye somewhat away from the wall. I still need to hide the viaduct seams with some vine growth.

I repeated the process in North Woodbury and South Westville to add depth to the scenes and hide tree shadows from appearing on the walls during photography.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Another 6 Weeks and I Can Goof Off Again!

It’s tax season and I work for a large tax prep firm. Our office is 2 people short and I’ve been working more hours than I have in 5 years and I am a bit tired. I have a 3 day weekend and am enjoying it. Just 6 more weeks to go!

Went to a “train show” a few weeks back. To me it is a fraud to call something a train show and have only 2 minimal railroads set up. It was a swap meet. Why not call it that, so people know what they are going to? It is especially irritating that it was sponsored by a modular group and used their name. I expected to see their nice layout set up but nary a module. Grrrr!

On a much better note, half of my operating crew showed up and did a ton of work on the layout. Big thanks to Gene and Mario!

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Blizzard of ’16 & the (Re-Modeled) Glassboro Train Station

The Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines Historical Society got a tour offer from the recently preserved Glassboro PRSL train station. Unfortunately, since the Northeast Blizzard of ’16 was about to take place (current forecast of 18”-24” and 45-65 mph wind gusts) kept the attendance down to about 6 people. Since I live less than 5 miles away and the flurries had just begun I got to briefly attend. Attached are some bad photos (I forgot I had left the camera settings for close-up model train picture taking [Av: depth of field]).

The station was originally built in the 1860s (think Abraham Lincoln) making it one of the oldest historical buildings in Glassboro, NJ. Reading some of the on-line sites listed below, it appears the project is approaching 15 years and has consumed grants of $1.3M. Much of the money went to fight off the termites and vandals (hence all new plumbing and electrical). CSA (Conrail Shared Assets) still operates the (down to a single) track and the evening would include a fast freight run by (which came 40 minutes early). The building was restored to its 1950s appearance.

Many historical items and pictures line the facility and current displays include Rich Drobil’s HO PRSL model railroad (and a generic Lionel layout). Also present was a G scale (BIG!) model of an RDC (Rail Diesel Car), 12 of which used to handle the bulk of the passenger traffic on the PRSL.

P.S. The ride home 45 minutes later was challenging!

Rich Drobil's HO PRSL

G Scale RDC

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Our area is about to set a record for Christmas Eve of 76-78 degrees. Fortunately I model the PRSL in the early 1950s so I can get away with the following picture of my N scale folks trying to get home for Christmas in my Philadelphia 30th Street Station module during a snow shower.

Just remember the Reason for the season!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Gateway Model Railroad Club – Open House December 19, 2015

My September 12, 2011 blog detailed my involvement with the Gateway Model Railroad club in its formative years and I recently saw an open house notice for them while picking up some glue at a local hobby shop. So I figured I would stop by and see how they have progressed in the last few decades. It appears they have totally redone the layout since my last visit. It is now multiple decks and pretty much fills the first story of their building.

When you enter you see a picture of Ed Evans, their founder and my favorite Sunday School teacher. My 2011 blog details the impact he had on his often out of control Sunday School class. It is men like him that left their mark for good on the generation that followed them. I will always be grateful for having had the opportunity to know him and be molded by him.

The club has some excellent builders who have populated the layout with magnificent structures, many with detailed interiors. I don’t understand why they kept the room so dark, as I would like to have seen the buildings in better light. (It was also strange to see an elderly operator controlling the trains with a medical facemask.) As I highlighted in previous open house blogs, I think when you have an open house you need some roving ambassadors to engage the public in the joys of model railroading.